Image Credit: © Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports
I've played Madden for about 20 years now, and I'd like to think I'm pretty good at it. I was ranked in the top 5% for a bit and really have the most fun when I'm playing someone who knows football. It can be easy at times when you play someone who only runs the same plays over and over again but can't adjust to anything else. Sometimes, I will even mess around and try new plays when I'm up against someone who I can tell isn't on my skill level. In those games, though, I've found ways to lose because I gave them too many opportunities to stay in the game. They weren't the better team, but I made the poorer decisions. Usually, I can turn it around, but others...
1 - Allen - Was there an article this week that said Allen had a weak arm that I missed? Allen decided it was a fastball-only game, on a day where the weather was so cold that the football felt like a rock. If Diggs can't pull in a basic slant pass, you know something is wrong. Allen put up one of his worse statistical passing games, and I still never really felt like we were going to lose this game. The Falcons defensive line did a good job of getting their hands up and tipping two passes into interceptions. The other interception was an example of when hero ball goes wrong. Fortunately, Allen is a true dual-threat QB and scored two touchdowns on the ground and learned to lean on his rushing attack in the second half, helping the Bills cruise to an easy win.
2 - Defensive Backs - Outside of the big Kyle Pitts play, I thought the Bills defensive backs played one of their best overall games of the season. What was so impressive was their ability to turn their heads back to the pass at just the right time. I know the Falcons aren't world beaters at receiver, but there were plenty of passes where we would've been flagged for PI in prior weeks. Dane and Levi played a hell of a game. It's great to see this unit step up in Tre's absence.
© Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports
3 - Stevenson - For those who got comfortable on punt returns, this was the game to bust out the old Zanax. Stevenson fumbled on his first punt return, which led to a safety. Then, he later bobbled another punt. He found a way to get tackled by another Bill on two kick-off returns. With McD's zero-tolerance policy, I wonder if we see McKenzie back there next week, considering he wasn't a factor in the passing game again.
4 - Talking to herself
"There's no one else who needs to know"
She tells herself
Memories back when she was bold and strong
And waiting for the world to come along
Swears she knew him, now she swears he's gone
5 - Edmunds - I have to go back on my word from a few weeks back and talk about Edmunds again. Is it me, or is he always chasing downplays or standing around a group tackle? He showed his value in the passing game on a few plays where he used his lanky body to jump around and block passing lanes, but that's about all I saw him do in this game. He got trucked twice in this game, where the running back got an additional 3-5 yards on the tackle. I just don't get it with this kid anymore, and I'm at the point where I hope they can trade him for some value heading into his 5th year.
© Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports
6 - Phillips - It drives me crazy when players finally figure out how to play in their contract year. Over the past few weeks, Phillips has finally become the cog in the middle of the defensive line that we hoped he could be when we drafted him. Unfortunately, he's also injured constantly. Harrison was all over the place in this game and did a great job against the Falcons run. For a big boy, he showed some speed getting to plays on the edge and getting involved. Him and Oliver were a wrecking crew in this game, where Oliver was consistently getting double-teamed.
7 - Snatching Defeat from the Jaws of Victory - When Matt Ryan got the taunting penalty against Poyer, only to find out he didn't actually get into the end zone, leading to no points; did anyone else picture that happening to the Bills 5 years ago? Being on the other side of it, it's hysterical to watch these sub .500 teams find ways to take themselves out of games. For those who watched the Jets game, who were up 4, they ran a QB sneak on 4th and a long 2. The coach said it was a play call mix-up, but still. We had the Josh Allen slip and the Hail Murray, but it's still overall night to no longer feel like "that team."
8 - Return of the Young Ends - MIA for weeks, Groot and AJ finally decided to show up for this game in a big way. Groot had the huge strip-sack while AJ made some great plays in space and a big open field tackle. I'm still not seeing much from them against one-on-one matchups, but hopefully, they are also starting to get some confidence.
© Jamie Germano / USA TODAY Sports
9 - McD - As this game ended, there were a lot of tweets about records broken and whatnot. A few things stood out for me that really shows all the things McD and Beane have done for this team. This was our first playoff-clinching win since the late '90s. This is our 4th playoff run in 5 years. McD has over ten wins in multiple seasons and is already climbing up the Bills coaching wins records. There's always something to criticize, and that's what we do as fans, but to take a step back and look at things now versus the drought is very impressive.
10 - Thoughts - This may be my last season writing these post-game thoughts. I haven't fully made up my mind, and it has nothing to do with any of my readers. Honestly, the support from so many of you is why I've kept doing this as long as I have. I'm coming up on almost ten years of writing these, and it really is work. I know the writing is casual, and spelling is off, but that's meant to be part of the charm. The truth is, I can't watch a game without taking notes. As my work life changes, getting these written becomes more like an assignment. I can't really just enjoy the game or comment much afterward because I feel like I have an obligation versus something that started out as fun after Bill left it behind. If I do decide to walk away, it doesn't mean I won't write thoughts or comments in other places, but I just won't commit to the timetable and rhythm I've been following until now, and it may not have as many details. Sometimes, I just want to watch a game and enjoy it versus sitting the and adding notes to sort through later. But again, the community has been so supportive, and maybe this season was more taxing for some reason. Regardless, I reserve the right to change my mind.
BillsFans - Virgil